Saturday, March 31, 2007

Getting My Sea Legs Again

I've been very intensively immersed in my dad's end-of-life transition for the past few weeks. I had to call upon my inner Spartan warrior to get through a lot of it. So today I found myself surfacing from the whole experience, as though the ground heaved and dipped beneath me. I needed to gain my sea legs again.

I needed to go by the water. Whatever ails me, if I can go and look out over a large body of water - preferably the ocean - my soul is soothed and my equilibrium returns. Luckily for me, the hospital where my dad passed away looked out over the harbour. When things got heavy, I found myself looking out the window to that blue pulse of energy. And on the morning he died, there was a lovely sunrise sparkling on the water.

The morning of his burial, we had strong winds and snow flurries. When we gathered at the gravesite to say our final goodbyes, the wind gusted powerfully from Bedford Basin, buffeting each one of us like a back-slapping embrace. My uncle said he'd always think of my dad on a day like that.

Today it was deceptively sunny, masquerading as spring when scarves and mitts were still in order. But the promise of warmer days smiled through the sunshine. I spent some time this afternoon gazing out over a lake, feeling strength filter through me as I saw the surface shimmer.

The days ahead will unfold and I will rise to meet each one. When things seem to get too much for me, I'll take some time and go by the water. My energy will fill up like a well. The ground will seem more stable. I'll find my sea legs again along the shore.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Saying Goodbye

Thank you to everyone for your thoughts and prayers. I know they made a difference.

My dad passed away on Saturday morning, March 24th. Today we celebrated his life at a funeral mass, and laid him to rest at Fairview Cemetary. The wonderful thing about that is my dad's lifelong passion for all things Titanic. Fairview is where many of the Titanic passengers are buried. There's no better resting place for Dad than that.

I'll be more recovered in a few days. For now I'll share his obituary which appeared in Tuesday's paper.

PHILLIPS, Norman John Paul - 65, passed away Saturday, March 24, 2007, in the VG Site, QEII, Halifax, surrounded by his family. Born on December 29, 1941, in Campbellton, N.B., he was a son of the late Gabriel and Viola (Rattie) Phillips. Gregarious, fun loving and always happy to help, Norman leaves behind a family who knew how much he loved them and a wide circle of friends. He began his working life as a car mechanic and never lost his appreciation for cars. He used his varied skills during his 1960s tour of duty with the US Army, 2nd and 3rd Armored Division which he joined while living in Michigan. He taught soldiers to drive "deuce & 1/2" and five ton trucks in Germany, and served as a French-English translator while in France. Upon returning to Canada, Norman combined his passion for scuba diving with his mechanic skills, repairing scuba gear until he opened his own shop, Scotia Scuba and taught certified scuba diving. A car salesman for many years, Norman enjoyed meeting people, his most recent position being with the Commissionaires, shepherding cruise ship tourists at Pier 21. He was an avid photographer, a knowledgeable music lover, an agile jive dancer, and as always a Montreal Canadiens fan. His greatest joys were the smiles he saw on his loved ones faces. Norman is survived by his loving wife, Doris (Edh); daughters, Julia (Brad) and Michelle (Newt); stepchildren, Carla (Tom), Oregon; Brent, Oklahoma; Tony (Tracy), Calgary; Rhonda, Dartmouth; first wife, Paulette; sister, Loretta (Tim), Michigan. He was predeceased by sisters, Hughette and Suzanne; brother, Maurice. A celebration of his life will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday in St. Agnes Church, corner of Chebucto and Mumford Roads, Halifax, Father Williams officiating. Reception to follow in the church hall. Cremation has taken place under the care of Cole Harbour Funeral Home (462-5601.) Donations may be made to QEII Health Sciences Centre Palliative Care Department.
"God saw you getting tired and a cure was not to be. So He put His arms around you and whispered, "Come to me".
With tearful eyes we watched you, and saw you pass away.
Although we loved you dearly, we could not make you stay.
A golden heart stopped beating, hard-working hands at rest.
God broke our hearts to prove to us He only takes the best."

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Precious Friend

My heart can't find words
Your eyes fill with love
Your steps fall in with mine
My heartbeat lightens
You leave behind your day
Gather your own fear
You cross the threshold
Smile at my father
He reaches for your hand
Knowing for certain
He need never worry for me
With you there

Precious friend
The heart of the Happy Prince
The swallow who would not leave him
Nothing will stop the wave of loss
You merely place yourself
So my knees won't buckle

- Julia Smith

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

My Dad's Relationship to Optimism

"Is it compassion, or a morbid fascination with death that compels a medical oncologist to volunteer to predict how long his or her patient will live?" asks The Cheerful Oncologist in his Sept. 22, 2004 blog, "The Oncologist as Soothsayer".

"I personally have found it more helpful to use this occasion as a chance to sow encouragement, and shift the focus of all onto the life of the patient. It is easy to be the bearer of bad news in this world - but an oncologist should always carry the light of hope inside, and shine it on the cancer patient just when his or her world seems darkest."

My dad was moved into hospital care this morning despite having made arrangements to die at home. My sister came to get me on day two of my new job, and we went to my dad's apartment to wait with him and my step mom for the ambulance to arrive. His recent blood work showed very low hemoglobin and very high potassium levels. So off he went to the hospital.

My dad has been the sort of person to never see lemons, but lemonade. Last year when he had his initial diagnosis, his blinders-variety optimism really served him well. He had an excellent year and responded to treatment with flying colors.

The beginning of this year took some of the shine off of his personal view of the world. Getting the word that The End is Nigh can do that. Even to him. So today when Dad found himself being taken to the hospital, I could tell he felt his optimism had gone Elvis and left the building.

"Take a look at your relationship to optimism," says Helaine Iris in her Nov. 1, 2006 blog "A Downside to Optimism". "Ask yourself if you use optimism as a skim coat for denial, perhaps bordering on delusion. If so, find the perfect balance between staying positive yet not being afraid to look squarely at reality. In my experience I know that reality is always deal-able, it clearly may not be my preference in the moment, but life always turns out ok in the end - somehow."

By the time Dad got settled into his shared room and spoke with several doctors, his familiar fighting spirit was back. After all, would they bother bringing him in when beds are at a premium? His surgeon from last year popped in to see him and said Dad would get a "turbo tune-up." I think Dad's delusional optimism is contagious, even to the surgeon who had to back out of removing Dad's kidney last year because the snake-like tumor was wrapped around a main artery.

In the grand scheme of things, I like Dad's lemonade world. I'm going to pour me a tall glass, sit on the porch and sit awhile.

Monday, March 19, 2007

First Day at Pensions

Well, I've worked my first day at my new job. Although gluing two dozen envelopes and covering reception for an hour hardly constitutes work! Granted, the person who's supposed to train me for scanning wasn't in today. And the person who started training me for clerical support wasn't in last week, so she had some serious catching up to do this morning. She couldn't train me until after lunch.

So the morning was pretty slim in the old work department. I read through the step-by-step guide for the scanning program I'll be using, then I read through the bio for the provincial finance minister, since he's technically my boss and that was the only other thing on my desk.

I got introduced to everyone and taken on a tour of the office, which is very nicely situated. Very mod colors, well-designed cubicles, each with their own little locker and everything. After a year-and-a-half of shared workspace with a five-member team, it will be so nice to personalize my desk!

I was preparing myself for that wiped-out cranky feeling I usually get when I have to stretch my brain out of its normal patterns. Two jobs ago, my learning curve was like mountaineering. It was my second office job outside of retail and I found myself doing reconcilliations, generating legal documents and overseeing disbursements and deposits. All without a solid hold on Windows XP.

Then my last job at the registry of deeds had a three-week physical conditioning element where my eyes had to adjust to taking visual snapshots of 3600 PC screen images per day. Plus the learning curve of making quality control decisions for all of those images. The whole team felt like our synapses were going to explode by the end of the day when we first started.

So that's what I was gearing up for when I showed up at Pensions for my first day. Luckily I always carry my writing around with me. I got quite a bit of my own work done this morning. I wonder if that's the shape of things to come?

Sunday, March 18, 2007

10 Favorite Books

I was popping around at a few blog sites yesterday and found Chris at Book-a-rama listing her ten favorite books (March 16th entry.) This was in response to another blogger, Kailana, wondering this very thing after reading the UK Guardian's top 100 list of books you can't live without.

At first I thought I'd have to take the day to think about it, but it took me all of ten minutes:

1 - THE HORSE AND HIS BOY from THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA series by C.S.Lewis. It's hard to pick any out from the series as a whole, but this one is really special to me. It includes a spoiled royal daughter who learns what life is like on the other side of the palace. My absolute favorite thing. This series was #33 on the UK Guardian list.
2 - THE SILVER CHAIR from the Narnia series. This one had issues of madness and was quite gothic.
3 - FARMER BOY by Laura Ingalls Wilder. For some reason I always went for the boy character POVs! He loved his family's horses and I shared his love.
4 - THE CRYSTAL CAVE by Mary Stewart. Her ultra-realistic Merlin character really did it for me. I found this book at a Christmas tea-and-sale when I was about 12, and images from this book have stayed with me for thirty years.
5 - DUNE by Frank Herbert. This one made me rethink my concept of organized religion, no less. And his image of a person's life-path/fate starting off as a giant round mosaic that narrows into a line as one moves forward and makes choices I've always kept in my mind. This was UK Guardian's #52 book.
6 - NINE PRINCES IN AMBER by Roger Zelazny. Really loved the concept of the True Amber, of which Earth is merely a shadow realm. And the morphing route back through all the shadows in order to return, plus the use of Tarot-like cards to shortcut through time and space. Plus walking the Pattern. Wow - makes me want to read it right now!
7 - TEMPTING FATE by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro. This was the first of her series that I read featuring the Count Saint-Germaine, a vampire who has to deal with the practical problems of eternal life. He's such a great character. Uber coolness but with a compassionate heart.
8 - DRACULA by Bram Stoker. When I read it I was already a vampire fan. I was constantly amazed at the compelling and riveting imagery, then reminded myself 'No wonder it's such a classic.' #72 on UK Guardian's list.
9 - THE WITCHING HOUR by Anne Rice. Loved the secret society that kept tabs on the activities of the supernatural.
10 - DEVILISH by Jo Beverley. This is part of a historical romance series by one of my favorite authors. The series follows the Malloren family, and the head of the family, Rothgar was in several books before he got his own story. He's such a dark, brooding character, taking coolness beyond James Bond territory, but in an 18th century kind of way.

So now I'll wonder the same thing. Favorite books, anyone?

Friday, March 16, 2007

Last Day at the Registry

A funny way to end my contract at Land Registration - I took the morning off because I had a doctor's appointment, plus I had to pick up prescriptions over at the Metropolitan Dispensary.

I only had the afternoon, which gave me precisely enough time to QC one book (that's quality control, as in look at every page of an 800-plus-page book of property deeds to make sure everything scanned okay), get 250 pages into the next one, copy down a few final names for my huge list I've kept over the past year-and-a-half (I've always collected names to use when I make up characters), and answer a few questions for the person taking over the property plans who I trained this week.

And of course I talked to my new supervisor, who wanted to go over a few final things before I get there next Monday. And said a few goodbyes, but not too many because I'll be keeping in touch with a lot of them.

It all went by very quickly, and before I knew it I was strolling along the harbour heading for the ferry. It's been a wonderful job, and I've worked with a great team.

But I'm grateful, very grateful to have found this new position at Pensions. At this moment I feel like the end of the "Mary Tyler Moore" opening credits. I'm tossing my hat up into the air, with "You're gonna make it after all" playing in the background.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Discussing the Surreal

My husband and I picked up my friend after work and headed over to see my dad and step mom. After a very brief outing from the den into the living room, Dad had to bow out and retreat to the easy chair so he could doze in front of the hockey game. Once my sister arrived, we settled in to hear about my friend's experiences with cremation services.

She has dealt with her father's death, her father-in-law's, her aunt's and her husband's uncle's death in the past few years. Plus she has several friends with life-shortening handicaps. She has discovered quite a few ways of by-passing the funeral costs that surround cremation and wanted to share them with us. As well, it's a way of taking care of your own loved one, rather than handing him over to a stranger.

As you can imagine, we all got quite weepy while picturing the practical aspects of my dad's final exit from the apartment. But I think it was a good sort of rehearsal for us, because dealing with something that's hard is always easier when you've pictured yourself doing it before.

There's no question that funeral costs are extremely steep. My friend has discovered that family members can procure the wooden box for the body, transport the body, get the paperwork necessary and deliver the body for cremation themselves. This ends up being a fraction of the cost of a funeral home handling the cremation.

When one considers that families used to hold wakes in their own homes when my mom was growing up, it seems strange that the death transition has been so completely severed from the family in the space of two generations. I wonder if there will be a movement to reclaim the final journey, delivering loved ones into transformation with personal veneration.

Hopefully, I'll have a few decades left to see if that sort of thing bears out.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Don't Even Get Me Started

I headed over to my dad's last night and we were chatting about my first two ecstatic viewings of "300". He told me that Iranians had gotten themselves worked into a snit over Hollywood's depiction of the Persians as evil villains. This being a film told from the Greek point of view as they battled invading Persians.

Cue my blood pressure to skyrocket. My mouth to curl into a derisive sneer. God preserve me from the reactions of imbiciles.

Not only was I incensed by the previous reaction to Danish political cartoons and a sovereign country's right to print them in their national newspaper if that's what they wanted, now I have to listen to accusations that Hollywood is out to wage battle-tainment against Iran with "hostile behaviour which is the result of cultural and psychological warfare".

"Iranians were clearly offended at the way their ancestors were portrayed in the film, inspired by the tale of 300 Spartans under King Leonidas who held out at Thermopylae against a Persian invasion led by Xerxes in 480 BC." (Reuters) The educated population aside, what is with the descendents of the once-mighty Persia?

They seem to have their noses perpetually out of joint. They take offence to this, they take offence to that. Fine. However, when offence-taking involves setting embassies on fire, and then spin-off offence is taken because the Western world paints Iranians as violent reactionaries, I'm thinking that someone should sit down with the whole nation and go over some dictionary definitions.

Luckily, there are modern-day Persians who keep my faith in humanity alive. Darius Kadivar, writing for the "Persian Mirror" states:"Before succumbing to what is our national sport that is seeing conspiracy theories of monstrous proportions in any non Iranian/Persian depiction of our land and history, let us take a closer look."

Such a sigh of relief! God answered my prayer. Kadivar goes on to say: "Should that mean that we have to adopt a partisan attitude towards a film we have not even seen?" Go Kadivar, go! "Should Motion Pictures for that matter be accountable for the unpredictable reaction of viewers?"

"What the controversy about this film reveals is that the Persian Empire, with or without its King or legitimate heir, still exists in the minds of all Iranians and probably transcends even political convictions. It probably has more to do with our own Ego (justified or not). Or is it a Freudian sense of self preservation and of our role as a nation in the History of Mankind? An American audience hardly even knows if Persia even exists or existed nor can they distinguish between Iran and Iraq."

Here's the best line of all: "Were we to show the World a different face then we should try to make our film version of the same battle."

My blood pressure lowers. My nostrils leave off flaring.

"In a recent press conference given after the movie’s Premiere in Hollywood some journalists saw in Xerxes and his Empire an analogy with George Bush and the American invasion of Iraq. Others claimed on the contrary that Bush was actually Leonidas who fights to the near end to defend the democratic values of the West.

"The movie can very well be exploited as a propaganda tool by both the White House and Iran’s President Ahmaninejad. If so it would mean that their own political agendas are so weak and fragile that they need to have recourse to motion pictures to self promote themselves or their ideologies."

And now I can go to bed with happy harmony feelings in my chest.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Onward and Upward

On Friday as I was beside myself waiting to leave work early, counting down to "300", I got a call from the supervisor at the Pensions office where I had a possible position in the works. Could I email my resume over to him? And he was about to call up my references. Things were on the move! It's a provincial government position, so there's a lot of paperwork involved in hiring.

I carried on with my Friday, merrily enjoying all the rampaging Spartans, then downtime with my gram that was my weekend. Monday came and voila! An email from my former supervisor that she'd given a reference for me ( "I told him under no circumstances should he hire you.") Then I got a call from the Pensions supervisor with the offer for the job.

I went to my current supervisor to let him know and to work out my notice time. He looked at me as I entered his cubicle and said, "Oh, you're not feeling too good, eh? Leaving early?" (I've developed my first cold of the winter.) I shook my head. "Oh, it's your migraine?" I smiled and shook my head. I told him I'd gotten the position with Pensions. His face lit up with happiness for me. "Oh yes, I completely forgot to tell you! On Friday I got pulled out of a meeting because he called me. I told him you were just terrible to work with." And he laughed. How I'm going to miss him. He's been such a wonderful supervisor.

So this Friday will be my final day at the Registry of Deeds after a seventeen-month stint. I have to take the rest of this week and train another person on our team to take over the property plans. Considering my contract there would have winded up at the end of June, it's a load off my mind to have another provincial position to go to. I'm so grateful. But especially to my sister who heard about this spot opening up in the first place.

I see a wardrobe infusion in the very near future.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Hanging Out With My Gram

My mom needed a break this weekend, so she went on a Frenchy's marathon with my sister and I looked after my grandmother. My mom is the primary caregiver for my gram, who is 92, relatively self-sufficient but in need of someone being present 24 hours a day, and getting really, really hard of hearing. Speech has transformed into shouting at the top of your lungs if you're talking to Gram. So it's good for Mom to take a break every now and then.

I'm the back-up caregiver. My husband and I live with my Mom and Gram, sort of like The Walton's. When Mom needs to have sanity breaks, I step in. Often I've had to insist that she take them. But this time she scheduled one before she was at the breaking point, which was a major accomplishment for Mom. My sister can always use a break, too, so two birds went with one stone. Phew!

Our apartment is in the basement, so when I'm looking after Gram I basically move upstairs and sleep in Mom's bed to be near Gram. It ends up being a 'change-is-as-good-as-a-rest' type of thing. Although I do spend a lot of time traipsing up and down the stairs between the two households. What's made things a whole lot easier is Gram's welcome for my dog to come upstairs.

Gram has never had pets and has always been uncomfortable around cats or dogs. When my husband and I got our dog in 2001, we lived with Gram in Yarmouth in the upstairs apartment. We knew how she felt about dogs so we kept Xena in our apartment and didn't even consider bringing her into Gram's space. When we all moved to Dartmouth and combined three households (Gram's, Mom's and ours) into the new house, Gram would see Xena from time to time on the deck. She could see that Xena was one of the most mellow dogs around.

Last year she agreed that Xena could come upstairs, since Gram mostly stays in her rocker and wouldn't worry about tripping over her. Now on weekends like this one, where Xena would be alone while my husband was at work, now she can come upstairs while I'm looking after Gram. You can't imagine how wonderful it feels to watch my dog walk over to Gram and put her chin on Gram's lap. To see my gram melt into a smile is incredible. "She's looking at me. Look!" Gram says.

A great stride forward for a woman who once only considered animals as a source of meat for the table.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

When Sublime Rapture Envelopes You in IMAX

Yesterday was the opening day for "300", and I was fully prepared with pre-purchased tickets for the 7:00 IMAX show and the 9:50 regular theatre. My cousin got them online earlier in the day, and we met up for dinner at 5:00 at Jack Astors. I'd left work early at 2:00 in order to get the ferry and bus and be home by 3:00. Just enough time to take my dog for a brief walk before leaving her for the evening. Then my mom lent us her car, which was very appreciated by my car-less husband and me, since that late show wouldn't get out until close to midnight and the buses would stop running around that time.

Just before meeting up with my cousin and her husband, we stopped in to see my dad and step mom. He's doing well but has been falling this week - twice, actually. The steroids he's taking for the various organs affected by his cancer have been making him swell up, and I don't think he can feel his feet very well. So we wanted to stop in and see how he was doing. He was in good spirits as always, and my step mom seemed recovered from the freaked-out feeling you get when someone you're looking out for falls before you can do anything about it. Dad made fun of my habit of multiple viewings of a film at the theatre. He's never recovered from my 14 times seeing "Star Wars" during its original run in 1977 when I was 13. We had a really nice mini visit, with hugs on our way out. My husband didn't tell me until after the second movie, as we were getting in the car, that Dad told him, "Make sure you look after her, now," as he gave him a hug. My dad.

We joined up with my cousin and her husband for a delicious dinner and lively conversation. Never enough time to hang out together! And it's so much fun when we do. My cousin's husband has a short film that screened during last fall's Montreal Film Festival, and it's screening in Halifax next week, which was exciting news. We moseyed on over to the theatre and were delighted that we all like to sit three rows from the front, smack in the middle of the action. The show was sold out, so the hum of anticipation was delicious.

Then it started. I'd already read enough glowing reviews to feel confident that I'd love it. And everything about it delivered. My favorite actor, Gerard Butler got to shine in the lead role of King Leonidas, and I got to spend the next two hours watching the man I've cast in my mind as the model for my main character act like the ancient warrior that is my own character in my manuscript. Nothing better than when the images in your mind come to life right in front of you!

The freshness of the shot set-ups was intoxicating. Gorgeous battle footage, unbelievably synchronous movement from the shield wall of the Spartans. Director Zack Snyder took us into that front line with Steadicam shots, trucking shots and slowed motion that froze here and there to linger on moments of lethal beauty. Leonidas was a dream of a leader, towering charismatically over the fierce fighters under his command. In one beautiful shot, he heads his unit of 300 over the rise of a hill. As they swagger down the road, powerful bodies unshielded except by their own muscle, scarlet capes swaying majestically behind them, I heard a guy in the audience behind me whisper, "Jesus, they're tanks!"

I especially like all of the silent moments when Leonidas spoke through his expressive eyes. Perfection. Didn't know I'd be treated to a nude shot of Gerry from behind. All I can say is, that was worth the seventeen months I've been waiting since this film started shooting.

Watching it immediately after the first show allowed me to settle in and wait for all the moments that took my breath away the first time. There's absolutely nothing in the world that can make my heart swell and my pulse race like it does when I watch a true warrior lead his people the way Leonidas does here. It's a feeling that never duplicates for anything else. Grateful me!

Of course, as Leonidas prepared to face down death I couldn't help but think of my afternoon visit with my dad. He's staring that foe squarely in the eye like a fearless Spartan. And while he stands in the line of fire, I'll hold my shield "thigh to neck" to protect the soldier to my left - my father. We'll hold the cancer hordes off for a little while yet. As the Persian commander calls to Leonidas to lay down his weapons, the king replies, "Come and get them." I can see that same glint in my dad's eye with every morning that arrives.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Countdown to "300"

To say I'm having trouble concentrating today is putting it mildly. In the first place, my cousin tried to buy tickets ahead of time but they aren't putting them on sale until it opens on Friday. So the tension of not knowing if we'll even get in is unbearable.

Then the long, drawn-out effect of The Day Before is excruciating. I've been waiting for this film to come out since the October before last, meaning 17 months. October 2005 is when it went before the lens. And I'm not exaggerating to say that I've been waiting for it every single day since then.

The torment! The exquisite torment!

I'll just have to distract myself tonight with "Who's Afraid of Happy Endings?", a documentary on the romance industry airing tonight on Bravo at 9:30 my time. My friend Kelly Boyce is one of three writers profiled, and I know it's going to be great.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Three Seconds of National Coverage

After work on Monday, I headed to The Paper Chase in Halifax to buy Starlog magazine. It's a sci-fi fantasy mag that mainly covers film and television, but also reviews books, games and websites. It's a hefty $12 in Canada, but its depth of coverage is well worth it. I've been reading Starlog for thirty years and have the back issues to prove it.

It's harder to find in Halifax than in Toronto, and I wasn't surprised when The Paper Chase was sold out of it. So I walked up to The Daily Grind at the top of Spring Garden road to see if they still had any copies left.

I made my way along the diagonal walk past the library and saw a reporter and a videographer waiting at the other end. I thought they were waiting to do a take, but it turns out they were waiting for me.

The reporter was John Vennavally-Rao from CTV. I'm a news junkie and recognized him right away. He asked if I would make a few comments about the early daylight savings time coming this weekend, so I said ,"Sure." It was painless and even kind of fun.

So off I went to The Daily Grind, where Starlog was waiting for me. Once I got home, I told my mom and husband, and I put a tape in the VCR for the 11:00 national news just in case I made the broadcast. Sure enough, they ended with a piece on daylight savings time.

Vennavally-Rao said most people he'd talked to were looking forward to it, and they cut to me as the lead-in response. "I think most people need something to pick their spirits up," I said for all of 3 seconds. Then another man makes a comment, and they save a third woman for the end. The piece goes on to warn about computer timekeeping gliches and having to manually change them.

Thus begins my PR odyssey. I'd better start each day as if I'm ready for my close-up. You never know who's going to be waiting around the next bend in the road.

Click on the link to see the footage. Once on the CTV page, click on the video footage at right.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Visiting Author Kathryn Smith

Today at my writers' meeting we had a visiting author, which is always a lot of fun. This writer used to be a member of my chapter but left before I joined. Since she relocated, she's published 13 novels in 6 years. Very encouraging!

Also, she's currently writing a vampire series, so it was interesting to hear about her transition from writing historicals to vampire stories. That's been my writing history as well (minus the published part - so far.)

And, I managed to win one of two copies of her latest book, NIGHT OF THE HUNTRESS. Can't wait to read it. I've had good luck with the book draws at our group. I've won two by erotica author Cathryn Fox: MAKING WAVES, a two-novella release featuring Fox's LIQUID DREAMS, and PLEASURE PROLONGED. Plus I won contemporary romance writer Carol McPhee's NONE SO BLIND.

Can't wait till one of my own books is in that draw!

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Thank Heaven for Sisters

I was hard at work on my manuscript Thursday night when my sister called. I thought she was going to tell me about her first day at her fabulous new job. Which she did. Briefly.

The real reason she was calling was something far more exquisite. "Are you watching CBC?" she asked. I said no, with a little thrill starting up in my tummy. Thursday nights on CBC means "Opening Night" which is a fine arts program often featuring dance. "That guy you like, Guillaume Cote..." and I felt the surge of adrenaline burst through me. It was 9:09. I'd missed the first few minutes. We hung up.

I grabbed my VHS tape with dance programs on it. Thankfully it was already cued up to record. My husband passed me the remote in a smooth relay-team baton maneuver. I took out the tape that was in the VCR, threw in my dance tape,tested it quickly just in case, and pressed record.


I quickly called my sister back, gushing with gratitude. Then we both hung up to enjoy our ballet.

Guillaume Cote is a principal dancer with the National Ballet of Canada. When I left my job at the theatre which was their home for 46 years, Cote had just joined the company as an apprentice. Several years later, when the National came to Halifax on tour, I noted how quickly he'd become a first soloist. A very swift rise through the ranks past the corps and second soloist.

But it was on my trip to Toronto last November to see the Gala Opening of the company in their new home at the opera house that the magical moment happened. Guillaume Cote was the principal dancer with Greta Hodgkinson for "Sleeping Beauty". I was already impressed. To be chosen for that honor at such a young age is remarkable.

Then he stepped onstage.


By the third act, I knew I'd discovered my new dance crush. In the first place, I keep up to date on everything to do with the National because I love that company deeply. I'd noticed that Cote was being cast in roles that had been danced by my prior dance crush, Johan Persson (now retired from dancing and working as a dance/theatre photographer.) I already suspected I'd like this new guy because of that.

Watching him dance, I delighted in his passion, his charisma, his strong acting skills and his flawless dance technique. It's rare for all of those elements to be present in the same person. Exceedingly rare.

How lucky I am that I was able to tape this documentary, filled with dance footage of someone I'm two hours away from by plane if I want to see him onstage. Thank you CBC! Thank you National Ballet for finding this great talent. And thank you to my sister for calling me!

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Writing vs Social Repartee

I'm sure the people on the bus have categorized me as 'that lady who pulls out that notebook all the time.' Once I climb aboard and find a seat, I dig into my bag, pull out my notebook, slip my pen from its easy-to-reach place in my purse and I'm already into the zone.

The only thing that stops me from getting a good amount of work done on my commute is the social aspect of public transit here in the Maritimes. People on the bus chat each other up, unlike the transit riders in say, Toronto. I lived in that marvellous big city for thirteen amazing years, and people there understand that transit has a certain etiquette. If you get on the bus with friends, of course you can talk to your friends. But if you get on the bus alone, you don't attempt to initiate conversation with other riders.

The only people who do that are the unbalanced sort. That makes it easy to differentiate between regular sorts of people and those who you may want to avoid. This means that many commuters use their very valuable travel time to do all sorts of things. I got into the habit of working on my writing during my hour heading downtown and my hour heading home. That's two hours of writing. Not to be passed up.

I learned very quickly that I wouldn't be so lucky back in my home province. Especially not on my morning bus ride. My bus erupted into a fullblown social club. We're called the Bus Buddies. We have a grand old time heading into work at 7 in the morning. Laughter, conversation, commaraderie - it's quite special, really. Loads of affection, caring and support. But not a great place to get any writing done.

Although they would tolerate it. They are the Bus Buddies, after all. They put up with my mad scribbling when I did NaNoWriMo two years ago. I had to write every second that I wasn't actively engaged in my paying day job. But so far I haven't managed to do regular morning writing on the 7 o'clock bus.

It's probably just the whole morning thing. I don't really wake up until noon, no matter that I've already put in 3 1/2 hours of work by then. I'm just going to have to start pulling out my notebook on my morning commute. My suppertime commute used to be fairly anonymous, but different friends have begun to collect on my route home. Yet I can't afford to give up two hours of writing time per day.

So I'll have to make peace with the idea that I'll start to be known as 'the notebook lady' even when I'm surrounded by the Bus Buddies. But this being the Maritimes, my oddness will not put anybody off of chatting me up.

Anyway, the Bus Buddies already know all about my oddness and love me anyway. Some things in life can't be orchestrated. The formation of the Bus Buddies is a gift in my life and I enjoy it so much I've let my morning writing fizzle away. But I have to be firm with myself.

Tomorrow morning I'm going to pull out my notebook. I'll perfect the art of running two mental programs simultaneously. One program will run my work in progress, and one will stay connected to the chatting and fun. It will probably be good for me. Cirque du Soleil, here I come.